When To Use White Pepper Vs. Black Pepper

Learn the difference between black pepper and white pepper.

IMAGE Unsplash/Christina Rumpf

Did you know there are at least four kinds of peppercorns? There is the black peppercorn which is the most common but there is also the white, green, and vibrant red peppercorn, too.  

Of these kinds of dried peppercorns, the white pepper is the other more common kind on the market. That's because the white peppercorn is a black peppercorn just treated differently before being dried. 

Both the black peppercorn and the white peppercorn are the berries of the same pepper plant. (The green peppercorn is picked early, hence the green color, and the red peppercorn is picked later when it's riper but all four kinds of peppercorns come from the same plant. The pink peppercorn comes from another plant altogether.

Photo by Pixabay/LivsStil
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The biggest difference between white peppercorn and black peppercorn is the outer shell. Both the white and black peppercorn would have the same black, wrinkly outer shell but when the white peppercorn is prepared before drying, it's soaked first so the outer shell is easily removed, leaving you with a smoother skinned peppercorn. This outer shell is why the black peppercorn is black and the white peppercorn is white. If you crack a black peppercorn in half, you'll see the "white peppercorn" underneath. 

This outer shell is also the reason why the black peppercorn has a more complex flavor than the white peppercorn. This difference in flavor is another reason to use white pepper instead of black pepper. The white peppercorn meanwhile has a cleaner, fresher, and almost herby taste than the black. White pepper is actually more spicy than black pepper that can make your tongue, and your mouth, tingle.  

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How do you use white pepper? 

Apart from the way the peppercorns are prepared before being dried, there are other reasons to use white pepper instead of black pepper. The most obvious reason to use white pepper instead of black pepper is appearance.

Black pepper may be ground finely that it's hardly noticeable in most dishes. However, when you use black pepper in dishes that have a light-colored sauce, the black specks will show up. It's not always noticeable, but it can be commonly mistaken as something else entirely unappetizing. 

To avoid that, you can substitute white pepper for black pepper. You'll have a dish that isn't speckled, and it will still taste delicious.  

The flavor of the peppercorn is a delicious spice. It was once so prized a spice that it was once used as currency! Discover the difference in the flavor of your dish when you swap between black pepper and white pepper. 

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